|Published:||May 05, 2012 12:17 AM EDT|
|Updated:||May 05, 2012 6:31 AM EDT|
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - The Indiana Pacers are in their best position in years to nudge their way back into the second round of the playoffs.
They finally returned to the postseason in 2011 after a four-year drought only to be eliminated in the opening round. Now, with a 2-1 series lead over the Orlando Magic, they could advance for the first time since 2005.
"It would be a big step," said Indiana coach Frank Vogel, who is in his second full season. "We talked last year when we got into the playoffs that it was a big step for us to get back to the playoffs. And that this year our goal is to take an even bigger step. So that's definitely the goal."
It's also why such talk is being done only in a few whispers inside the Pacers' locker room. Even if it appears they could find themselves in a second-round pairing with Miami.
"We really keep a short-sighted mindset," Vogel said. "We're not looking at what Miami's doing or any other series. We're not looking at how many games we need to win. We have a Game 4 mindset. We put it on the board in the closed session. That's our only goal right now."
The Pacers have almost completely shut down the Magic's offensive attack at times during two straight victories. But even with Orlando missing All-Star center Dwight Howard, the Pacers know the Magic can still put up points in bunches.
The Magic proved that in their 102-83 win over Indiana in January when Howard was held to 14 points and nine rebounds. Ryan Anderson, who was honored as the league's Most Improved Player on Friday, erupted for 24 points, hitting five 3-pointers.
"We have to keep adjusting on the fly," said Pacers center Roy Hibbert. "I'm not sure what they're going to do tomorrow. You might see a different lineup. You may see zone. You may see a small lineup. You might not see me that much in the game if there's a small lineup. We'll see."
It turns out at least one of Hibbert's suspicions will come to fruition.
After watching his team get decimated on the boards and in transition the past two games, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said he would make "subtle" changes to his rotation, though he will stick with the same starting lineup.
"We're through 69 games; we're not going to change everything we do," Van Gundy said. "You can put in something here or there and change a defensive scheme here and there."
Forward Glen Davis said there wasn't any sense of panic. Davis is coming off a 22-point scoring effort, and with the Pacers keying on Anderson, he knows he will probably have similar opportunities to score Saturday.
Unlike at the beginning of the season when Davis struggled after not breaking into the starting lineup, Van Gundy said, now he isn't "worrying about his individual situation." That, he said, has translated into a more controlled player offensively.
"We know we're one game away from tying it up and it being 0-0 again," Davis said. "That's what they did. So we can do the same thing."
Is it win or bust right now for the Magic?
"Yep, it's a must win," Davis said. "We gotta have this game."
Pacers guard George Hill said he wasn't devoting a lot of time to thinking about any changes the Magic may make.
"We're not focused on anything Orlando does. You just focus on what you're doing," he said. "This team has been great all year long. No matter who we're playing, we try to compete with as much energy and effort as possible.
"If we continue doing that and don't have any slippage, I think we'll be fine."
Van Gundy doesn't see any quit in his team.
"You see a lot of things that you can do better," Van Gundy said. "So you know it's not a hopeless situation. ... The issue is, will we play good enough to beat them?"
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